Marietta, Ohio was a city of contradictions to Elian. He could see the older buildings but there was so much that was new inside of the city as well. Elian loved to drive the city, trying to learn it as well as seeing what it had to offer. It was something he had started to do once he had graduated from the college. While he had been going there he hadn’t had the time to just wander the city. He spent too much time cramming classes to get as much done as possible. Sometimes he went on foot in the residential areas. He hadn’t found much this time around but that was a given, he was sure there wasn’t much left to be found in the city. It had been nearly a week since the open house and no one had called about it. Elian was close to calling on his own to see whether he was even being considered for purchase of the house. He wanted to know if he needed to start looking elsewhere. He adored that house but if they weren’t going to sell it to him, he wanted to know and find a new place.
Just as he was about to give up looking around the town for the day, he stopped at a light and there was a used book store in front of him. Waiting for the light to turn, Elian looked at the store. It was open and through the big window at the front, he could see that there were a lot of books. It looked like it was a well-used store by the location. He wondered at why he had never seen it before. He had never been stopped at a light at this particular intersection before that was the only explanation.
The parking lot was a few stores away so Elian parked and walked the short distance there. As he did, he found that the streets were empty. There were barely any cars on the roads in that end of town and there was no foot traffic other than him. It was during the middle of the work day but he was still shocked to see it so dead. It was rare for Marietta. He was used to seeing so many going to and from at all hours of the day. Marietta was a college town and even when college wasn’t in session, it never was boring.
Elian entered the bookstore and stopped cold. It was the same one from his dream. He almost turned around and left in that same second. As he was turning around to leave, he heard a whisper. It was the same kind of whispering he knew from his dreams. It was no clearer though. Turning back to look inside the store, he found a table of free books. They were ratty and horrid looking but the owner, the sign said, couldn’t throw them away. He could understand that. Books were sacred and special. Elian stepped up and the whispers got louder. He still couldn’t understand the whispers but it was getting louder. At the edge of the table was a small box. He looked at it and the whispers got even louder.
The box itself was made of a deep red wood and there was a latch that held it closed. The latched looked old but cared for. The wood looked the same. Elian picked up the box and looked at all six sides of it before he set it down in front of himself. When he had picked it up the whispers stopped and when he set it down, the sounds started again. He lifted the latch and then the lid. It didn’t creak or catch like he expected it to. The hinges were well oiled for the age of the box. On top was a book, bound in old leather. There was no writing on the outside of the book. He opened the cover and looked at it. It was handwritten in what looked like writing style of very long ago. It was a journal of some sorts and very well preserved. As he looked back into the box he found two others underneath.
“Those were given to us after an estate sale several years ago.” The old woman who owned the store stepped up to him as she spoke. She scared him because he hadn’t heard her walk up to him at all. That was strange because people rarely ever snuck up on him. She looked the same as she always did in all of his dreams. The same age. The same clothes. The same everything. She looked at him with curiosity and hopefulness. He was sure that she was hoping that he would take them off her hands. He didn’t want to venture too far into the store. He didn’t want his dream to come true. He didn’t want to see the books start to drip blood. The store shouldn’t creep him out as much as it did given he had actually never stepped inside but it did. Elian set the journals back in the box and closed the lid. “We tried to have them authenticated but those are fantasy journals. Once you read it, you’ll understand. The pages of paper and ink are several hundred years old. That was all we could get out of the authenticator. The authenticator seemed mad that I had taken them to him. Like he was scared of them. Someone wrote them on the creatures of the night: vampires and werewolves. The second and third books are empty. It’s believed that the writer died before finishing them. There is room for a fourth but I’ve never found it. Haven’t looked too much for it either. There is no money in the journals.”
Elian looked at the woman. She was just as creepy as the store. He smiled at her before he grabbed the box and backed out of the store. He didn’t turn his back on the store until he was back at his car. He was sure that he was a sight for those that could see him. When he let himself drop into the driver’s seat, he set the journals on the passenger seat. Making sure the car was locked, Elian looked around. The city was buzzing again. He watched as several cars passed by him on the road. There were people walking on the sidewalks in front of him. It was as if the city had been hiding from him before he had entered the store.
Elian reached over and touched the box to find that the voices were starting again. It should worry him but it didn’t. He removed his hand and the voices stopped. He couldn’t tell what the voices were saying, it was just nonsense whispers. He wanted to hear what they were saying. He wanted to know. His life was spinning and he wasn’t sure he could survive the stopping when it decided to. He had no one to share it with. If he could hear the voices, he could try and help himself.
What few friends that he had back in Columbus, he hadn’t kept in touch with when he moved. He hadn’t wanted to. Not even his teammates from the basketball team. He had been good at adapting to their social standards but he hadn’t been part of their group, not really. He did what he had to survive and not be a social outcast during his schooling. Even at college, he had hung out with the jocks. A fake injury had benched him after his final season in high school. The jocks at OSU had taken him in and helped him. He had been safe with them. His mother had been upset when he hadn’t kept in touch with any of them after moving to Belpre. He had his reasons and he really didn’t want to make any new friends at the moment either. Dating had never even entered his thoughts. He knew that he was not normal but he knew that if he had let anyone get truly close to him, he would have been vulnerable and he couldn’t stand to be vulnerable.
Knowing that it was getting late in the day, Elian started up his car. He waited while the stream of traffic passed him before he pulled out. He was on the far side of Marietta and decided to take the West Virginia highway to Parkersburg. He had left a note for his parents telling them he was going out to dinner that night. He was trying to avoid meals with them as much as possible. It was working so far. His mother would text him telling that they needed to talk but so far he had avoided coming home until very late at night. He would sometimes sit outside the library and use their wireless until his computer battery died.
Driving home was rote, he barely remembered the actual drive of it and that worried him a little. He hadn’t had an accident but he wasn’t even sure where he was until he saw that he was pulling into the Park Shopping Center. He parked in the lot of the clothing store and looked over at the two choices he had for dinner: Bob Evans or the local small Mexican restaurant, Gran Ranchero. Shutting off the car, Elian grabbed his book from the seat behind him. He looked at the box of journals and then decided to put them in the trunk. He didn’t want to take them in where they could be damaged. They were in good condition for their age but having something spilled on them was not something he wanted even if he didn’t pay a thing for them. It didn’t take long to put them in the trunk and lock up his car. He wasn’t that worried about anyone stealing the car but it was a very busy section of the city and that meant there was some crime.
The waiters all smiled at him as he entered. He ate there several times a week, sometimes for lunch but more often than not, it was dinner. The busboy brought him a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa, his waiter was right behind him with a glass of un-sweet tea. The menu was left on the table unopened. He knew what he wanted and so did the waiter.
The waiter picked up the menu and grinned at him. “Normal?”
“Yes, Felix,” Elian said with a smile. Felix took the menu and walked off to place the order. It wasn’t that busy for as late as it was. It was nearly seven and only half the tables were full. It only took about ten minutes and a plate of chicken fajita nachos was placed in front of him and a pitcher of tea with no ice in it. Felix nodded his head before wandering off. Felix would refill the pitcher when it was needed but would otherwise stay away. Elian opened his book and started to read as he ate his nachos. When he was done with the fajita nachos, Elian started on the fresh basket of chips that had been set down. The table he had been put at was in the newest section of the restaurant and a two person table. He would most likely stay there until nearly ten. It was his normal ritual. When he finished off the third basket of chips, Elian caught Felix’s eye and the waiter popped back inside the kitchen. Five minutes after that, a plate was set in front of him. There was a chimichanga with a center of chocolate and a fried ice cream on the plate. He dug into it, closing his book as he did. He wanted to eat the chocolate chimichanga while it was hot and the ice cream while it was freezing cold.
It was nearly ten when Elian finished the book he was reading. He needed to go back to the library in the morning to get a few new books. He preferred to get the books from there because while he had the money for a lot of books, he didn’t have the space, not until he moved into a new place. Even then he would probably just get a Kindle or something like it and buy some books but get the majority from the library. The ones he liked, he would get the e-book of.
His food was thirteen and change with tax and Elian always left a seven dollar tip for his waiter for leaving him alone but yet keeping him in tea. He was sure that was why Felix always waited on him when he was working. It was a hefty tip for little work.
The drive home was peaceful. Elian enjoyed staring at the night sky when he was stopped at lights. It was beautiful out. The sky was full of stars. When he parked in the driveway, he got out and just stared at the sky. Nighttime was the best time. He loved being outside no matter the weather. The house was dark, except for the light in his parents’ bedroom. He looked up to see his mother staring down at him.
There was something on her face that he was seeing more and more. He wasn’t sure what it was, he wouldn’t call it hatred but it was something close. He knew that he had disappointed her but he wasn’t quite sure why she would hate him for it. She tried more and more to control him and the more she did, he pulled away. The more he pulled away, the more she gave him that look when she thought he wasn’t looking and sometimes when he was sure that she knew he was looking.
Clearing his mother from his mind, he opened up trunk and pulled the box of journals from it, placing them in the bag with his art supplies he had picked up that morning at a small art shop in Marietta. He had run out of paper and needed more. He had bought several sizes of pads. The full pads he had filled over the years were in his trunk. He didn’t trust them inside with his mother. Grabbing his computer bag and slinging it over his shoulder, he started around to the back of the house and the entrance he used most of the time. His key was in the lock before he noticed that it was unlocked. He shoved the door open but made sure that it didn’t hit the wall. He might not be getting along with his mother at the moment but he had no ill will and he knew that both of his parents had to work the next day.
The paper pads went where the rest of his art supplies were on a small table in his room. His room in the basement was one of the biggest rooms in the house, outside of the kitchen and the living room. He liked it that way; it gave him the ability to spread out. He had a desk where his laptop sat when he wasn’t carrying it around. There was a table where he did most of his art work. There was a sound system hooked up and went around the room for him to listen to. An entertainment center was along one wall, it held the main part of the sound system, along with his TV, his game systems and all his movies and games. It looked like a college student’s dorm but he liked it that way. There was even soundproofing padding on the ceiling so that his parents wouldn’t be bothered by his music and he by their walking. Elian put the box of journals on his art desk as well, taking out the journal that had been written in and hiding it in the box his X-Box 360 came in. He relaxed on the bed, wanting to think for a few minutes.
Waking up and seeing an early morning sun, shocked Elian. He looked around his room to see his door still open. He was shocked that he hadn’t shut it. He also hadn’t meant to sleep like that. He knew that he had left the door open. He looked at his table where his art stuff was. The box was not like he had left it. He had been right to hide the journal like he had. He left the box alone and quickly changed. He had a trip to the library and gathered his books up that he needed to return. He had left the one he had finished in the car.
Taking the steps two at a time, he entered the kitchen to find his mom and dad both still there. He looked at the clock. It was only six thirty. He kissed his mother’s cheek and gave his father a smile. He was going to try and make what little time he had left in the house, a happy time.
“You are in a good mood,” his mother remarked as she set down a plate and filled it with eggs, potatoes, and bacon.
“Got a good night’s sleep. I feel really good.” Elian wasn’t lying. He did feel really good. He could be happy around his parents and it hopefully wouldn’t be tiring. That was his entire hope.
His mother didn’t say anything, instead she just moved over to the counter, where she always ate her meals, looking over expense reports for her coffee shop. He remembered remarking as a child that she never sat down to eat breakfast. His father had commented that if she did, she would just want to sit and do nothing all day. His father had laughed about it then and so had he. Now, he wondered if she had ever sat and ate breakfast with them when he had been younger and she had been a stay at home mom. He didn’t remember ever seeing her eat any meal other than dinner with them. Even then, Elian had been seated on the same side of the table as his father and she was on the opposite.
“That’s great, Elian.” She looked over at him and smiled before turning back to her reports. His father had his head buried in the newspaper as he always did. It was rare to get any conversation from him in the morning until he had finished the newspaper. Elian dug into his food quickly, he was itching to get outside and do some sketching. He loved art and his mother had even tried to get him to pursue it as a job. She could take him being an artist but not a librarian or a teacher. His mother didn’t make sense even on a good day. Many artists made less than librarians or teachers on a good day.
His father closed the paper and looked around the room before settling his gaze on Elian, shocked to see him. His father looked at his watch and was surprised at the time. He finished off his juice and kissed his wife before leaving, clasping Elian on the shoulder before he was out the door with his briefcase.
His mother quickly followed him out the door, getting ready to open the coffee shop by seven thirty am. Elian was alone in the room and he just sat there. His mother hadn’t said a thing to him; maybe his father had stepped in and told her that she would chase him off if she wasn’t careful. It wasn’t just his mother’s attitude about his future that was making Elian want to move out, something he had never brought up to his parents. He needed to be on his own, he felt that. Since moving to Belpre, he found that he followed his instincts more. The words in the letter pressed on his mind more and more.
It wasn’t long before Elian was outside with his pad and pencils. He started to draw a tree from his dreams. It was an old tree that looked like it had been half burnt but was still living. It was a beautiful tree in his memories of it. He didn’t know what kind of tree it was but he knew that the leaves were a bright orange-red color all year round. He knew that before the fire, the leaves had been green, like most trees. He didn’t know how he knew but he did. It was knowledge that was just in his head and he had no clue why it was there. As he put the finishing touches on his tree his vision blacked out.
“Dee!” a female voice called out. It was different from the voice that had called out his name before. “Dee! Get Darius to safety!” The sound of a door slamming and the scream of the woman who had been speaking made Elian jerk. He blinked and he found he could see again. The sound didn’t stop though.
“Please, let me live. Let my son and I live.”
“Adriana, your son is the reason we are here!” Another voice spoke. Elian heard what he could only think was a sword being drawn from a scabbard. Seconds later, he heard a small whistle followed by a squelch and then a thunk. Elian covered his mouth to try not to throw up. He knew what that sound had to be.
“Two down. All that’s left is…” The sound stopped and Elian found that he could hear nothing at all. He shook his head and then the sounds of the birds entered his ears. He had no clue what he heard but he was fairly sure that the Adriana woman had been beheaded. He didn’t know the fate of Dee but he was sure that he or she was dead as well. The child Darius hadn’t made it far past then.
If he hadn’t had such a hard time with psychologists and psychiatrists, he would have sought out one but given his childhood, he would just have to use his drawings and running to get rid of the memories of the things he heard. He looked down at his tree and saw that he had drawn three graves on it. There were two full sized ones and a small one. It had to be graves for Dee, Adriana, and Darius. The graves were small and there wasn’t a lot of detail on them but they looked old. Like several hundred years old.
Elian closed his pad and stood up. He looked around. It seemed like more time had passed than he wanted. He looked at his phone and it was almost ten. He sighed and started into the house. He would put up his drawing and then head out to the library. As he hid the pad in the box with the journal he pulled out the journal. He flipped it open to the first page and started to read.
Today I am one hundred and fifty nine years old. I celebrated early with mother and father and then went out into London and spent some money. A gift I received from a distant friend of the family proved too much for me to ignore. This set of four journals, encased in a wooden box made of redwood from somewhere, enthralled me. My father kept a journal, he told me, when he was younger, my father had been stuck in the thrall of being made when he was younger. My mother never saw the point of it. She had no reason to document her childhood, she stated on many occasions. I’ve decided that maybe I should try. That is why I am home alone on the anniversary night of my birth, writing.
Instead of a countdown marked by years, it is now finally marked by days. In one year, I will turn one hundred and sixty. I will be considered an adult to our kind and be free to live alone. I asked for a castle in Scotland as my present for when I turned into an adult. My father has indulged me. We visited the castle last night. It will be wonderful. I am already thinking on everything I want to do with the castle. I have the rooms picked out and I even have colors. I know what I want my bedroom to be.
I look forward to being on my own. I love my parents but I am ready to be on my own. All parents go through their children wanting to leave them. My mother understands it. She had to leave her mother when the time had come. My father had never known his father and had lived going from place to place.
I know my rules and I know the rules of the society around me. I can live alone. I am ready to live alone.
Elian closed the journal and put it back in its hiding place. He remembered the lady telling him that it spoke of vampires and werewolves but that had to come later, he was sure that the person who wrote in the book was a vampire though. Even if he or she never stated that. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out. It was a number he didn’t recognize. He swiped at the screen to answer the call.
“Elian Coats?” a voice asked from the other end. “It’s Amber from the Realtor’s office. The Harris’s have accepted your offer of a quarter of a million. They would like to meet tomorrow to sign the papers if that is fine with you.”
“Yes, that’s fine. When and where?”
“At the house around noon works for us.”
“Great. I’ll be there.” Elian hung up the phone and smiled. He had a house now. All he had to do was sign the papers and get the check. He readied everything to go to the bank and then the library.
I enter the book store that I’ve visited on occasion over the many years I’ve lived in this tri-state area. The older woman who started the store when she had been younger. The woman’s husband had been killed over in the Korean War. She had taken the money they had saved for caravanning across the county when they had retired and dropped it into a store front to start a book store.
It was a wonderful little store to pick up odd, old books. I adore finding gems among the raff of the store. I’ve been away for several years, never really caring to step inside again. The old woman had noticed that I hadn’t aged. It was best to not go around humans like that anymore than one has to be.
I caught his scent as soon as I neared the free table the woman put books she couldn’t sell. I looked at the gap that was there. There had been something large there. I took a deep breath and there it was again. All the signs that he had been there were in my nose: water and crushed leaves. I closed my eyes and took a deeper breath. There was something else there. A scent that I knew like the back of my own hand filtered into my nose, the smell of roses. Under that was something spicy. The smell of cinnamon. On top of it all is the smell of metal and ozone. It was really weak but it was there. It was the smell of my house that I grew up in and haven’t set foot inside of in years. This intrigues me. I try to follow the smell but it ends at the table. There was something that I had touched or held or had been around for a while on the table. He took it. It’s with him now.
The thought of that excites me. It excites me more than it should. I can’t wait until I cross his path in flesh and blood and not in scent.